THE police today acknowledged the comments of Coroner Ian Arrow at the conclusion of the inquests into the victims of the Keyham shootings tragedy in August 2021.
The inquest has concluded Maxine Davison, Lee Martyn, Sophie Martyn, Stephen Washington and Kate Shepherd were all unlawfully killed by Jake Davison.
Devon & Cornwall Police Chief Constable Will Kerr said: ‘My thoughts and those of everyone within Devon & Cornwall Police remain with the families of those who died in, and survived, such tragic circumstances in August 2021.
‘Devon Cornwall Police has acknowledged that Jake Davison should never have been in possession of a shotgun licence. Steps should have been taken to safeguard our communities and for that failure I am truly sorry.
‘The families who have attended the inquest have displayed immense dignity at a time of huge stress and emotion. I can only imagine how difficult a process it has been for them.
‘The events of that day have had, and will continue to have, an enormous impact on the community of Keyham as well as my own officers and staff who attended the scene.’Since these terrible events, and to ensure more consistent and robust application of current law and guidance, Devon &Cornwall Police has invested £4million into the Force’s Firearms and ExplosivesLicensing Unit.
Devon & Cornwall Police issued a statement that the Force is now involved in sharing advice concerning policies and procedures with other police forces and the National Police Chiefs' Council.
It adds: ‘While this funding is due for review in 2024, there is a commitment to ensuring appropriate resourcing in the department going forwards.
‘There are now almost 100 staff working in the Force, handling the largest number of shotgun and firearms applications of any force in the country.
‘Refusal rates for applications for both firearms and shotguns are also now the highest in the country.’
Chief Constable Kerr said: ‘Investment into the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Unit in terms of staffing and resourcing has and will continue to be significant. Indeed there are now almost 100 police officers and staff in our licensing team.
‘The communities of Devon and Cornwall should be reassured that there is a vastly increased grip and scrutiny around applications to ensure my force is doing everything possible to make possession of weapons as safe and regulated as possible.’
Chief Constable Kerr is now calling for greater clarity and direction on national law and associated guidance related to possession of shotguns and firearms.
He said: ‘Currently we are faced with 43 police forces independently interpreting discretionary guidance from a law created in 1968.
‘Both the Firearms Act of 1968 and its associated guidance should be reviewed to changethe permissive presumption in favour of being issued with a certificate or licence.
‘We would support a statutory position that reverses that presumption and creates a sensible burden in the application process on satisfying the police that an application is safe to be granted and the licence holder is an appropriate person to hold a firearm.
‘Changes such as this would ensure that every force is learning from events such as Keyham to prevent anything similar happening again.
‘I will be doing everything possible to influence nationally around statutory guidance and legislation becoming clearer and more rigorous for chief constables to follow and will be working closely with colleagues from the NPCC.
‘I accept Devon & Cornwall Police has failed our communities in regard to Jake Davison, but had there been clearer national guidance, direction and specific legislation concerning firearms licensing – decision making locally may well have been very different.
'We must all take responsibility when mistakes have been made but must also learn as police forces collectively to prevent future tragedies.’
Chief Constable Kerr added: ‘The conclusion of this inquest will hopefully bring at least an element of closure to those victims' families and survivors of the events of August 2021.
‘I am committed to supporting those families in any way I can.
‘It must also be the catalyst for change to give renewed confidence to every community in the country that a firearm is being properly managed in every case in line with fit for purpose national governance and legislation.’